English is a tricky language: sometimes you need to select between words that sound the same, other times you need to decide whether you’re using a noun or a verb and pick the right spelling. And this isn’t easy for whole generations who weren’t taught English grammar at school!
What’s more, American English can have a different way of doing things, which further muddies the waters! So, without wanting to bog you down in grammar, here’s how to avoid getting stuck on these commonly confused words:
1. Advice [n] / Advise [v]
“If you get stuck, always ask for advice; a friend or colleague may be able to advise you on the correct spelling.”
If you can precede the word with ‘a piece of’ or ‘the’, then you are using it as a noun (advice). If it is preceded by the word ‘to’, you are using it as a verb. It is also a verb if you’re using it as a doing word: “Please advise me on the next steps.”
2. Affect [v] / Effect [n]
“Poor writing can have little effect, or it can affect your business big time.”
Think ‘a’ is about action, so in most instances the verb begins with an ‘a’ (affect); when referring to the noun (effect) it will often have ‘an’ or ‘the’ in front of it.
To complicate things, effect can also be a verb meaning ‘to bring about’ and affect can also be a noun, meaning a feeling or mood!
3. Bare / Bear
“Often when you write, you bare your soul; in doing so, criticism can be something that’s hard to bear.”
Bare means to expose; bear means to carry. (We’ll leave the big furry mammals out of the picture!)
4. Compliment / Complement
“Our customers have been very complimentary about our new website.” “Here is a gift, with our compliments.”
“We now have a full complement of technicians.”
Most of us like compliments with an ‘I’. For example: “I like to … give/receive praise – or freebies!”
However, if something complements something else, it completes it.